Sixteen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, no one speaks to her. No one even looks at her. Because Twylla isn’t a member of the court. She’s the executioner.As the goddess-embodied, Twylla kills with a single touch. So each week, she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love her. Who could care for a girl with murder in her veins? Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to her touch, avoids her.But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose playful smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the goddess. Yet a treasonous romance is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies-a plan that requires an unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?
I’ve had my eye on The Sin Eater’s Daughter for a while. With a sumptuous cover, an intriguing blurb and a YA Book Prize nomination under it’s belt, it sounded RIGHT up my street.
The book begins incredibly slowly, and I mean incredibly slowly. For much of it, we just seem to follow poisonous protagonist Twylla around as she sings, embroiders, mopes and prays. Which y’know, is all well and good if you want to read a book about those things, but not so awesome if you want to read a magical high fantasy featuring political intrigue, conspiracies and a wicked main character who has the power to be a heroine or a monster.
I don’t really buy into the whole ‘female characters can only be strong if they can wield a weapon, tame a superpower or overthrow a political dictatorship’ thing, because I think that female characters should showcase the varied, wonderful and difficult aspects of being a woman. Strength can mean vulnerability, selflessness, bravery, responsibility or simply standing out from the crowd. Despite her power, Twylla’s only identifiable personality trait is her passivity. She’s basically a singing, praying doormat until a cute boy comes along and provokes a reaction that isn’t melancholy out of her. One can only assume that if the boy guard hadn’t come a-knocking, Twylla would have continued in her mission to not question people, not think deeply about anything at all, and then moan about her circumstances quietly (so as not to rock the boat) for the rest of time.
Around the half way point, the pace of the novel picked up a little and in doing so, the story became a bit more engaging: Less embroidery, more action. Kind of. There’s one sword fight between Prince Merek and Twylla’s guard, Lief, but it’s basically used as a device for Lief to take his top off in front and ignite Twylla’s lurrrve for him. Most of the ‘action’ from this point onwards is made up of smooching and an awkward love-triangle tango. Thank Daunen that they fall in love so quickly; else we may not have been treated to dialogue full to the brim with quotes like this:
“I won’t give you up, no matter who tells me to. No queen, no prince, no one.”
One thing I did really like about this book was the mythology that Salisbury has created in relation to the Lormerian Gods and sin eating. In fact, sin eating was the coolest concept in the book and my inner piglet was so sad that it wasn’t more significant in relation to the development of Twylla’s character or the plot. The writing is peppered with historically appropriate language and Salisbury’s writing style lends itself really well to mythology; the lore surrounding the Gods is sumptuous and rich.
For me, the pacing was way off. The plot seems to be MIA for the first 2/3 of the book and then BAM, the last hundred pages are plot, plot, plot and it all gets a little bit out of control. It kind of feels like Salisbury got to the end of the writing process and wanted to include a couple more twists, but without laying the foundations beforehand. I would have been impressed by what happened in the end, had it been woven into the plot at any point. Instead the ending came off as a huge information dump that was incredibly hard to take in because it had very little relation to the rest of the book.
The Sin Eater’s Daughter is not a particularly bad book, and there are things about it liked, Salisbury’s writing being one of them, but ultimately it just wasn’t for me. If you’re into your embroidery, or you want a romance heavy story with lots of kissing and a bit of fantasy, then this may be for you. I’m not sure it’s enough for me to find out what happens to Twylla and Co. in book 2.
- Author: Melinda Salisbury
- Publication Date: 24th February 2016
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Pages: 336
- Rating: 3/5
- In short: Young and poisonous: a study in how to press flowers, pray and do very little.